London, Normandy, and Paris: November 1999


Perhaps the most vital element contributing to the success of any student tour is the quality of the local guides.  We were very fortunate that the coach company we used hired Nigel Hake.  Although Nigel didn't spell Natchitoches quite right, everything else he did was superb.  I cannot imagine having a better guide and companion for our group.  In the short time that he was with us, he became almost like a member of the family, and when it came time for him to depart, we all said good-bye with genuine sadness.
We were also lucky in arranging for a place to stay in London.  We had used Scala House on a past visit, but we were afraid that they might be full this time.  Luckily for us, they managed to squeeze us in.  Ken Palos and his sons operate Scala House, where short term apartment rentals are available in a clean, well-located building very near the Goodge Street station in central London.  These two bedroom apartments can accommodate up to five persons and might be the best accommodations deal in London.
On a previous student trip to London, we had visited the Apollonia Greek Restaurant hoping to have a good meal, hear some good music, break a few plates, and see the belly dancer.  On that visit unfortunately, the entertainment room was being redecorated so we had to put it off.  This time, however, we got to see it all and even joined in the entertainment ourselves.  It was a perfect way for the group to become more at ease with each other very quickly.
Everyone else in London might have been freezing, but Thad didn't seem to notice.  From the Scala House, we were able to cover much of central London on foot with occasional trips on the tube or the bus.  I think our greatest regret is that we had to cut corners in order to cover everything we wanted to see.  We really didn't get to see nearly enough of the British Museum, for example, and we weren't able to go out to Windsor at all on this trip.  But we had a nice visit to the National Gallery, saw "Buddy" at the Strand, and took a ghost walk after the play.  We had a great tour of the Tower, ate lunch in the crypt of St. Martin in the Fields, saw the changing of the guard, shopped at Covent Garden and at Harrods, and even had time for a visit to the Hard Rock (students) and our favorite pub (adults).
For our visit to the Tower, we hired a guide from Original London Walks.  The morning we visited the tower was perhaps the coldest of the entire trip, but our guide was so good that we hardly noticed at all. 
We had to make the trip from the British Museum to Buckingham Palace in record time in order to see the Changing of the Guard.  We took three different taxis that let us out in three different places and amazingly managed to get back together within just a few minutes. 

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